CAAS Mourns, Celebrates Organization’s Co-Founder, Virginia Rock

The English Department at York University shares the sad news of the passing of Virginia Rock, an esteemed English Department member from 1965 until her retirement in 1994. She served as director of the graduate program in English for 3 years and also taught in the School of Women’s Studies and in its graduate program. Virginia also served as the founding master of Stong College from 1968 to 1978.

Professor Rock was a founding member of the Canadian Association for American Studies and organized our first conference in 1965. Each year of our conferences, a plenary lecture is delivered in her honour. She is mourned.

The following is a tribute to the late Professor Rock, courtesy of York U’s Stong College, for which she was also the founding Master. The notice also includes details about a memorial service that will be held at Stong College on Dec. 18 for anyone who would like to attend:

Please join us for a Celebration of the Life and Contribution to Education of Professor Virginia Rock which will be held on Friday December 18th, 2015 from 5:00 to 10:00 pm in Stong College MDR (SC 101).

Virginia Jeanne Rock

Sept 23, 1923 – November 17th, 2015

Professor Rock was first and foremost, a humanist.

Professor Rock arrived at York in 1965. She was widely known in the York Community for her contribution to the Department of English and the American Studies Program, both as a writer and lecturer. She also served as the Graduate Program Director in Department of English in the 1980s.

She was the founding Master of Stong College, 1969-1978. She was involved in the design of the College building, and introduced participatory democracy (with open committees and town-hall “general” meetings) as a way of building a community of students, Fellows and staff. Professor Rock was known as an innovator creating a first year general arts program for students that drew upon the talents of leading Canadians and York University.

She exhibited a high energy level. She attended almost every College event she could and worked long hours, very often forfeiting her own opportunities to help others in need (colleagues and students) and to take on meaningful issues. She pushed hard to create a cultural life in the College (art gallery, theatre, music rooms, guest performances, symposia, etc.), contributed an article to the College newspaper virtually every issue while she was Master!

Admired by her students and faculty alike, she loved and contributed to York well after retirement, continuing as a Fellow of Stong and staying closely in touch with many faculty staff, administrators and students. She was always ready to attend events and make a contribution. She is a benefactor of both York University and contributor to Clara Thomas Archives and the Nellie Langford Rowell Library of York University and the
Virginia Rock Scholarship at Stong College.

Prior to coming to York University, Professor Rock taught in Poland and the United States having an educational career that spanned 60 years.

She cofounded the Canadian Association of American Studies and was an early president. She was an outstanding role model for young women in a male dominant organization and time period: she created York’s first Women’s Centre in 1976 in Stong College and was involved in creating the School for Women’s Studies.

Professor Rock retired in 1989, was the Honorary Chair of Stong College 25th Anniversary Alumni Weekend in 1994, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by York University in June 1994. She remained an active Fellow of Stong until she was hospitalized in May 2015.

There is much to Celebrate.

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